THURSDAY THE FOURTH OF JANUARY 2018
Father in Heaven, you have loved us first, help us never to forget that you are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment. But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom you have commanded us to love as we love ourselves. Amen.
( Søren Kierkegaard )
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy child,
make thee a bed, soft, undefiled
within my heart, that it may be
a quiet chamber kept for thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
my lips no more can silence keep;
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
that sweetest ancient cradle song.
Glory to God in highest Heaven,
who unto man his son hath given;
while angels sing with tender mirth,
a glad new year to all the earth.
( Martin Luther )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Western Christians in India: evangelisation or empire building?
On the third of January, 1945, Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah died. He was the first indigenous Indian bishop in the Anglican Church of India. He was a strong advocate of ecumenism among India’s various Protestant congregations. He devoted his life to the spread of Christianity in his native land.
There have been Christians in India since the second century. Said to have been evangelised by Saint Thomas himself, the Mar Thoma Church usually looked for support from the Assyrian Church of the East or from the Syrian Orthodox Church. With the coming of European explorers, Western Christians often came along, and with an air or racial or cultural superiority, attempted to impose their Western ways on these ancient churches. Before long, the divided churches of the West were all establishing footholds in India. The question is asked: were these churches honestly involved in spreading the gospel of Jesus or did they simply represent the softer side of European empire building? In the case of Bishop Azariah, it was a genuine desire to share the gospel which motivated his life and ministry.
Azariah was a mainstream, broad church Anglican with a high priority for evangelism and much of his preaching centred on the resurrection. His ministry cut across class lines and focused heavily on rural “untouchables” caste members. The bishop’s traditional Anglicanism frustrated many Indian political leaders, who hoped he would be a leading voice for Indian nationalism. Azariah also took sharp issue with Mahatma Gandhi, who was unalterably opposed to Christians trying to convert Indians. Azariah saw conversion as foundational to Christian mission. Gandhi acknowledged the dominant Hindu religion needed reform, but Azariah went further and said it was repressive and grounded in a destructive caste system.
He said, “It is by proclamation of the truth that the early Church turned the world upside down. It is this that will today redeem Indian society and emancipate it from the thralldom of centuries.”
By 1935 Bishop Azariah’s diocese had two hundred and fifty ordained Indian clergy and over two thousand village teachers, plus a growing number of medical clinics, cooperative societies, and printing presses.
Traveling over the vast diocese by bullock cart or bicycle, and accompanied by his wife and coworker, Anbu, Azariah often built his village sermons around “the four demons" (dirt, disease, debt, and drink). He believed in adapting liturgy to local cultures. Epiphany Cathedral, which took a quarter century to build, was an architectural statement of the bishop’s vision, mixing Muslim, Hindu, and Christian designs. He saw it as a visual statement of the gifts and beauty of other faith traditions finding their fulfilment in Christianity.
Scripture. In the "Thirty-Seventh Psalm," at verses twenty-three and twenty-four, we read:
Our steps are made firm by the LORD, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the LORD holds us by the hand.
... for peace in the world.
... for the "untouchables" of the world; for an end to all "caste" systems.
... for the Christians of the Indian subcontinent; may they live their lives without the threat of violence and persecution; may they be free to proclaim their faith and openly worship Christ.
... for the people of Myanmar who celebrate their national day today.
... for those affected by inclement weather.
... for those killed or injured when a passenger train caught fire after colliding with a truck near Kroonstad city, South Africa DETAILS; for all who have been involved in accidents whilst travelling recently.
... for those killed or injured in the recent protests in Iran.
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
From "Christ in the Indian Villages" by V. S. Azariah and Henry Whitehead:
A very striking illustration of the evangelistic forces latent in the Christian community in India comes from the Punjab. A splendid work has been carried on among the strong, virile and independent Moslem tribes of the North-West Frontier for many years by both Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries. The chain of mission hospitals on the frontier have done a magnificent work. But for some time the missionaries were seriously concerned by the lack of success in the matter of converts. The building of an indigenous Church had been practically at a standstill for fifty years. The missionaries, therefore, met together recently and prayed to know what was the reason for this and to find out God's will. Gradually it became clear that the problem of the evangelisation of the Moslems is the preparation of a Church both to win the harvest and to take care of it. The reason for their lack of success had been their neglect of the Indian Church. So they called the elders together and put before them this duty. The work of preaching was then handed over to the Indian Church and a yearly campaign was planned lasting a week, in which every Christian was to take part.
It was at once discovered that an aggressive, awakened Church was by far the most effective evangelistic agency. In one city where regular bazar preaching had been efficiently carried on by the missionary without the result of even one inquirer, when it was taken over by a band of Indians of the local church, volunteers for the work, inquiries were made after every service. The Campaign week, with the handing over of definite evangelistic work to the Indian Church, proved successful in bringing in many inquirers all over the Rawal Pindi district, where previously for years there had been no baptisms. Since then there has not been a single year when some at least of those who came forward did not go on to confession by baptism.
The second discovery was the value of the outcaste Christians for evangelistic work, even among the Moslems. No one had thought of employing them for so hard a task. They are a very mixed lot, many of them still ignorant and dirty. The cleaning out of the filthy open drains of an Eastern city does not tend to elevate the mind. Somehow no one had faith to believe that they could be of use to God at all. But gradually in answer to prayer, nothing less than this was borne in on men's minds. It was to be these Christians from the Mass Movements who were themselves to be the agents used by God to work among the Moslem
people; they were to be the aggressive Church.
Lord of all, we thank you for raising up your servant Samuel Azariah as the first indigenous bishop in India. Grant that we may be strengthened by his witness to your love without concern for class or caste, and by his labours for the unity of the Church in India, that people of many languages and cultures might with one voice give you glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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